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Billy Garrett for Lieutenant Governor

Environmental Priorities for New Mexico’s Next Administration

From the Gila Wilderness to the Organ Mountains to Chaco Canyon, New Mexico is a
place of great natural beauty, where people have come together for generations to celebrate and
care for the environment. As Lieutenant Governor, I will honor our state’s conservation legacy by
working with the Governor, Legislature, and public to protect our air, land, water, and wildlife,
while laying the foundation for a healthy and prosperous future for all New Mexicans.

Climate Change and Clean Energy

Combatting climate change must be a top priority for our next Governor. Climate change
threatens life in New Mexico as we know it. Already, we are experiencing record high
temperatures, deadly wildfires, and extended drought. In coming decades, the Rio Grande is
expected to lose one-third of its water. Warmer winters may wipe out our ski industry. We could
even lose the piñon, our state tree.

In the face of this existential threat, we must take bold, innovative action. During the
1940s, New Mexico led a revolution in nuclear technology that transformed the world. Now, New
Mexico must lead another revolution—a revolution in clean energy and negative emission
technology that will allow us to avert catastrophe and jumpstart our economy. As Lieutenant
Governor, I will recommend policies that allow us to lead this revolution, including:

• Affirm New Mexico’s commitment to the Paris Agreement by joining the U.S. Climate
Alliance. The Paris Agreement requires participating nations to reduce their greenhouse
gas emissions in order to prevent a rise in average global temperatures of more than 2
degrees Celsius. President Trump has announced his intention to leave this landmark
agreement—a step that would isolate the United States from every other nation on earth.
The U.S. Climate Alliance is a bipartisan coalition of 16 governors committed to fulfilling
the United States’ obligations under the agreement. New Mexico should become the 17th
state to join this coalition.

• Achieve 100% clean power by 2035. The electric power sector is responsible for roughly
half of New Mexico’s carbon dioxide emissions, with the vast majority of these emissions
coming from coal-fired power plants. Coal-fired plants contribute to a host of other
environmental problems, from smog and soot to mercury pollution and groundwater
contamination. Transitioning away from coal towards zero-emission alternatives (like
wind, solar, and geothermal) is the first step towards a sustainable future. To that end, we
should update the Renewable Energy Act to require public utilities to obtain 100% of their
electricity from zero-emission generation by 2035.1 We should also support research and

1 The Renewable Energy Act should be renamed the Clean Energy Act, to clarify that all
forms of zero-emission generation can be used for compliance. Natural gas with carbon capture
and sequestration is an example of zero-emission generation that isn’t renewable.

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Billy Garrett for Lieutenant Governor

development of energy storage technologies, so we can increase our utilization of

intermittent energy sources (such as wind and solar) without sacrificing reliability.

• Adopt the nation’s most ambitious energy efficiency standards. Demand-side energy
efficiency is one of the best tools we have for fighting climate change. In addition to
reducing emissions, these measures save consumers money and stimulate the economy as
a whole (a 2009 study of the New England states found a ten-fold increase in economic
activity for every dollar invested in energy efficiency). To ensure we are not leaving money
on the table, we should strengthen our Energy Efficiency Resource Standard to require
public utilities to achieve annual electricity savings of 3% per year (relative to planned
sales). Utilities can achieve this goal by offering rebates for energy-efficient products and
helping consumers finance energy-saving repairs and retrofits. We should adopt
complementary policies—such as decoupling utility profits from aggregate sales and
strengthening building efficiency codes—to ensure we are able to meet our target.

• Establish stringent methane emission standards to reduce pollution and waste. Every
year, venting and leaks from New Mexico’s oil and gas industry result in 570,000 tons of
natural gas entering our atmosphere. That is a major problem for public health, the
environment, and our pocketbooks. Methane—the main component of natural gas—is a
potent greenhouse gas, 86 times more powerful than carbon dioxide over a 20-year time
frame. Natural gas also contains smog-forming volatile organic compounds (which can
cause asthma attacks and other respiratory problems) and hazardous air pollutants like
benzene (which can cause cancer). The amount of natural gas wasted each year is worth
between $188 and $244 million. If this gas were captured and sold, New Mexico taxpayers
would receive an additional $27.6 million in taxes and royalties every year. We should
adopt methane emission standards modeled after those recently adopted in Colorado, which
have led to dramatic reductions in emissions even as the oil and gas industry has expanded.

• Invest in zero-emission vehicles. The transportation sector is responsible for about 30%
of New Mexico’s carbon dioxide emissions, making it the second largest source of carbon
pollution after the electric power sector. Passenger vehicles are responsible for the
majority of emissions within this sector. These vehicles also contribute to smog and
particulate pollution, which can cause respiratory problems and heart attacks. To address
these concerns, we should join California and nine other states in the Zero Emission
Vehicle program, which would require manufacturers who sell vehicles in New Mexico to
increase production of these vehicles. We should also enact tax credits for electric vehicles
and commercial charging stations and strengthen our Alternative Fuel Acquisition Act to
ensure that 100% of the vehicles purchased by state agencies are hybrid or electric.

• Develop a Climate Conservation Corps to put New Mexicans to work fighting climate
change. Putting young people and recently returned veterans to work on energy efficiency
projects is a win-win-win: we create jobs, reduce emissions, and save ratepayers money.
Other states have shown how this can be done. Since 2013, members of the California

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Billy Garrett for Lieutenant Governor

Conservation Corps have performed energy audits and simple retrofits at schools, low-
income homes, and national forest facilities. Minnesota has put AmeriCorps participants
to work in residences, installing smart thermostats and power strips, door weather stripping,
and other energy-saving technologies. We should create a Climate Conservation Corps
here in New Mexico, using these programs as a model.

• Create a Carbon Farming Task Force. Research at New Mexico State University and
elsewhere suggests that regenerative agriculture and ranching practices—such as shifting
from inorganic to organic fertilizer, planting cover crops, and applying compost to
rangeland—have the potential to substantially increase the amount of carbon sequestered
in the soil while increasing yields and enhancing water retention. We should establish a
task force, similar to the one recently established in Hawaii, to study these practices and
develop methods of quantifying and verifying their climate benefits. The task force should
draw upon the experience of farmers and ranchers in New Mexico who are already working
to increase carbon sequestration in the soil. In addition, the task force should have authority
and funding to commission field trials to quantify the amount of carbon that can be
sequestered through various practices.

• Create a Center for Climate Solutions in our university system. There is growing
recognition in the scientific community that we must deploy negative emissions
technologies (NETs) in order to prevent catastrophic climate change. NETs are
technologies that remove carbon from the atmosphere and sequester it elsewhere—
examples include bio-energy with carbon capture and sequestration, direct air capture, and
enhanced weathering (the accelerated reaction of silicate minerals with carbon dioxide to
form carbonate minerals). New Mexico is well positioned to develop and deploy NETs,
because we sit atop geological formations that are well-suited for carbon sequestration and
have an oil and gas industry that already purchases carbon dioxide for enhanced oil
recovery. We should establish a state-of-the-art institution in our university system to
research and develop NETs and identify policy options to facilitate their deployment.

Environmental Justice

Throughout our history, minority and low-income communities—including people of

color, migrant farmworkers, and Native Americans—have been disproportionately affected by
environmental hazards. In response to this history of discrimination, Governor Richardson issued
an executive order in 2005 requiring state agencies to provide all New Mexicans with fair treatment
and the opportunity for meaningful involvement under the state’s environmental laws, regardless
of race, color, ethnicity, religion, or income or education level. Notwithstanding this commitment,
New Mexico has a long way to go towards making environmental justice a reality. As Lieutenant
Governor, I will advocate policies that promote environmental justice, including the following:

• Accelerate remediation of Superfund sites and identify other contaminated areas

where remediation may be needed. Many of the Superfund sites in New Mexico are

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Billy Garrett for Lieutenant Governor

located on tribal land or near other environmental justice communities. Cleaning up these
sites in a timely manner—and in a way that is respectful of the affected community—must
be a top priority. We should also be taking steps to identify, monitor, and remediate
contaminated areas that are not yet covered by the Superfund program.

• Create a Climate Justice Task Force. Climate change will disproportionally harm low-
income and minority communities. Deadly heatwaves and worsened smog will have the
greatest impact on people who work outside and those who cannot afford air-conditioning.
Wildfires and drought pose the greatest threat to people living in rural communities, while
low-income people will be hit hardest by reduced food security. We should assemble a
Climate Justice Task Force to document the ways in which New Mexico’s environmental
justice communities are threatened by climate change and develop strategies for improving
their resilience. The task force should also report on how climate policies can be designed
to benefit environmental justice communities.

• Incentivize energy efficiency and solar projects in low-income communities. Low-

income households typically have older, less efficient appliances and HVAC equipment.
In addition, these households are especially sensitive to energy costs. Energy efficiency
and solar projects in these communities provide a triple benefit, reducing emissions,
creating jobs, and increasing the disposable income of our most vulnerable communities.
New Mexico should offer performance incentives to utilities that undertake these projects.

• Invest in public transportation. Public transportation cuts down on the number of

vehicles on the road, reducing air pollution and congestion while helping people without
vehicles get to school, work, and medical appointments. It also creates jobs and increases
economic activity. Our next administration should work with local governments to
increase funding for public transportation, particularly in rural and low-income areas.

Public Lands and National Monuments

Our public lands are places of incredible beauty and great cultural, historical, and biological
value. Many of us spend the most precious moments of our lives on these lands, hiking and hunting
and fishing with our families. As Lieutenant Governor, I will work to protect these special places
and ensure that all New Mexicans are able to enjoy them. Specifically, I will recommend the
following measures:

• Resist the Trump Administration’s war on national monuments. President Trump has
issued executive orders that purport to shrink the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante
National Monuments in Utah. These orders threaten land that is sacred to the Pueblo and
Navajo people and set a dangerous precedent that could be used to shrink national
monuments in our state. I will recommend that our Attorney General join lawsuits filed
by the Navajo Nation, the Zuni Pueblo, and others to enjoin these orders.

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• Protect the Greater Chaco Region. Chaco Canyon is a UNESCO World Heritage Site,
home to the densest concentration of Ancient Pueblo ruins in the United States. Chacoan
roads, artifacts, and sacred sites are scattered throughout the high desert, which has been
occupied by native people for millennia. Unfortunately, the area’s magnificent cultural
and natural resources are being threatened by oil and gas development. Our next
administration should work with tribal leaders, environmental groups, local officials, and
our congressional delegation to seek greater protection for the Greater Chaco Region.

• Protect Otero Mesa. Otero Mesa is the largest desert grassland in the United States. It is
a breathtaking wilderness, with few signs of modern civilization, but ample evidence of
ancient cultures and animal life. Hundreds of pronghorn antelope call the mesa home, as
do mountain lions, black-tailed prairie dogs, golden eagles, and the endangered aplomado
falcon. The mesa also sits atop the largest reserve of freshwater in New Mexico.
Unfortunately, the Trump Administration wants to open the area for oil and gas drilling—
something that could destroy this magnificent landscape, contaminate its water, and harm its
unique wildlife. Our next administration should push back against this assault on our natural
heritage and seek to have the area permanently protected.


In 2016, the Standing Rock Sioux inspired us with a simple message: Water is life.
Nowhere is that fact more apparent than here in New Mexico. Every person, every industry, every
city, every wild creature in New Mexico depends on water to survive. But water is scarce, and it
will become increasingly so as the planet continues to warm.

As Lieutenant Governor, I will advocate for comprehensive management of our most

important resource to ensure the long-term sustainability of our communities, our economy, and
our natural ecosystems. Specifically, I will recommend that the following policies:

• Improve groundwater management. Although groundwater constitutes about 75% of

New Mexico’s public water supply, our state lacks a comprehensive plan for maintaining
this resource. Developing such a plan is necessary for long-term water security and may
soon be legally required if the Supreme Court agrees with Texas that current rates of
groundwater pumping in southern New Mexico violate the Rio Grande Compact. We
should consider developing legislation modeled on Arizona’s Groundwater Management
Act to ensure that our groundwater is managed for equitable and sustainable use.

• Promote Water Conservation. In an arid state like New Mexico, water conservation is
an essential component of any effort to achieve long-term water security. New Mexicans
are already leading the way: Over the last 20 years, Albuquerque has nearly halved its per
capita water consumption by educating the public about the need to conserve water and
offering incentives for water-saving products like low-flow showerheads and toilets. Other
cities can follow Albuquerque’s example, and the state can support these efforts by

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providing funds to repair leaky water infrastructure. However, because agriculture is

responsible for 79% of annual consumption in our state, any effective water conservation
campaign must include this industry. We should incentivize water-saving practices such
as drip irrigation, microjet spray, and border flood systems, and encourage farmers to grow
crops that require less water.

• Restore the Oil Conservation Division’s authority to impose civil penalties for
violations of the Oil and Gas Act. Oil contamination constitutes a major threat to water
quality throughout our state. The Oil Conservation Division has authority to regulate oil
and gas wells to prevent contamination, but unfortunately, a 2009 ruling of the New
Mexico Supreme Court deprived the Division of authority to impose civil penalties for
violations of these regulations. Our next administration should work to restore the
Division’s penalty authority, to ensure there is an adequate deterrent against risky behavior
that threatens our water.

• Restore the Rio Grande. There’s no nice way to put it: the Rio Grande is being grossly
mismanaged, to the detriment of all of the communities and ecosystems that depend on it.
In central and southern New Mexico, the river goes completely dry for parts of each year,
causing significant harm to native plants, fish, and wildlife, as well as loss of recreational
opportunities. Meanwhile, massive amounts of water are wasted every year due to
evaporation at manmade reservoirs. (Elephant Butte Reservoir evaporates more than twice
the annual consumption of the city of Albuquerque). We could save significant quantities
of water by storing more water at upstream reservoirs (which are cool and deep) and less
at downstream reservoirs (which are hot and shallow). Other options, such as planting
native shade trees alongside reservoirs and deploying black plastic “shade balls,” may also
have the potential to save significant quantities of water. These options—and other
innovative ideas—should be evaluated as part of a comprehensive plan to restore year-
round flow to the Rio Grande.

• Keep the Gila River wild and free. The Gila is the last free-flowing river in New Mexico,
and one of the last free-flowing rivers in the southwest. The river originates in the world’s
first designated wilderness area, before flowing southwest through the Chihuahuan Desert
and into Arizona. The river provides outstanding habitat: hundreds of bird species,
including the endangered southwestern willow flycatcher, have been recorded along its
cottonwood-lined banks, while native fish, including the endangered spike dace and the
threatened Gila trout, thrive in its waters. The river supports world-class recreational
opportunities for anglers, birdwatchers, hikers, and hunters, and is cherished by thousands
of New Mexicans as a spiritual center of the region. Unfortunately, a scheme to divert
water from the river has been proposed by the Interstate Stream Commission. This scheme
threatens the ecological and recreational value of the river and would cost taxpayers
hundreds of millions of dollars. Our next administration should work to prevent any
diversion of the Gila, while identifying alternative sources of freshwater for the region.

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Since time immemorial, New Mexicans have revered the wild animals with whom we share
our state. The first New Mexicans were fascinated by the creatures around them: their petroglyphs
and pictographs depict rattlesnakes, songbirds, coyotes, eagles, deer, and bighorn sheep, among
other species. Like their forebears, modern New Mexicans cherish wildlife, spending countless
hours on activities such as birdwatching, nature photography, hunting, and fishing that bring them
close to wildlife and allow them to learn about the natural environment in which they live.

As Lieutenant Governor, I will advocate for responsible wildlife management that reflects
modern science and New Mexico values. I will fight to ban cruel and outdated practices like
wildlife killing contests and the use of traps and strangulation snares on public land. I will support
the Mexican wolf recovery, while working to ensure that ranchers are compensated quickly and
completely for livestock losses due to predation. And because construction of a border wall would
cause habitat fragmentation and disrupt migration patterns—causing potentially irreparable harm
to endangered species such as the jaguar, the Mexican wolf, and the Sonoran pronghorn—I will
advocate alternative strategies for securing the border.

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